Student Gov’t Tables Israeli Boycott Resolution For Further Discussion On Mandatory Club Divestment

In a Zoom meeting held yesterday afternoon, members of the Associated Students of Pomona College (ASPC) fielded questions and concerns about the recently passed resolution “divesting all ASPC funds from companies complicit in the occupation of Palestine, and banning future use of funds towards such companies.” The senators were particularly focused on the final clause of the resolution, which specified that ASPC aims to lead the other student governments of the Claremont Consortium in adopting a Consortium-wide agreement to “ban clubs from using student government allocations to invest in or purchase goods or services from companies that contribute to the settlement and occupation of Palestinian occupied territories by the UN-designated companies or the Israeli state.” Ultimately, ASPC agreed to table the resolution for further discussion of the last clause.

During the hour long discussion, many members of ASPC expressed their concerns with the wording and application of some aspects of the resolution. One member noted that “[w]e do have to do the due diligence of…conversing with different parties involved in this issue. The final clause seems to be engendering…the most disagreement…Can we try to find an approach to the final clause that benefits both sides?”

As it is currently worded, the final clause states that “ASPC calls upon the other Claremont Colleges Student Government Associations to follow suit, with the end goal of an ultimate adoption of a Consortium-wide agreement to ban clubs from using student government allocations to invest in or purchase goods or services from companies that contribute to the settlement and occupation of Palestinian occupied territories by the UN-designated companies or the Israeli state. Clubs that fail to divest and/or refrain from such uses of funding would face the loss of all Claremont Colleges Student Government Association funds.”

Other student officials agreed that the resolution should be more accurately and critically worded. One member of ASPC said that “I’m not in favor of restricting Jewish organizations from receiving the goods and foodstuffs that are part of their tradition. I think I failed in some capacity to include the advisory board in some capacity in this discussion. ASPC should continue to affirm the legitimacy and critical function of the advisory board.”

Some officials, however, felt that the current wording of the final clause was clear enough. One senator argued that the final clause as it currently stands clearly focuses on companies working in Palestinian territories. “That is not intended to target the Israeli state. It is intended to target the occupation of the territory of the Israeli state supported by companies that do that. The idea that this has something to do with Jewish groups on campus…I truly don’t know where that came from. I think it’s just a strawman. It’s not the impact of this bill. [Its relevance] is none.”

Other members of the senate argued that the last clause of the resolution is simply a statement of purpose, stating that “[i]f there is no unanimous 5C rule, it’s really hard to enforce any budget rule.” According to one student, “[i]t’s not an act yet…unless all the other 5Cs were to come out with a similar rule.” Another argued that ASPC lacks the manpower to uphold any club wide ban as expressed in the resolution. As such, the student said, ASPC should make its prohibitions clearer and more achievable.

Other senators agreed that the current wording of the final clause leaves open the possibility that “[f]uture senates might have a different interpretation [of the clause’s intention].” To avoid the possibility of future misinterpretation, one senator said that ASPC “should specify [its] language on the last clause to [the] match language on previous clauses.”

Another member of ASPC remarked upon ASPC’s apparent focus on the Israel-Palestine situation over other humanitarian crises across the world. The student noted that “[w]ith China and the Uyghur issue and the Hong Kong situation and the Taiwan situation…I think on the one hand yes, this is super wrong and we shouldn’t support it, but why just this group and this one country [Israel]? Why aren’t we doing a bunch of countries at once?” The student said that ASPC should “[c]ome up with a more general statement, [that] ‘ASPC doesn’t support anything that violates human rights.’”

In response, another student said that ASPC focused on the Israel-Palestine relationship because of “the massive amount” of American military involvement with Israel. The student argued that “[o]ur money doesn’t go to whatever’s happening in China…and the Claremont colleges have a long…streak of antiPalestinian violence.” Addressing the previous student’s comment, the student said that the speaker “was giving a very ‘All Lives Matter’ vibe.”

As the discussion came to an end, one of the students in attendance asked whether ASPC had any intention of “formalizing some process to make sure…groups of students with different perspectives are engaged” in the decision-making process. The President of ASPC responded that, on the current resolution, “[i]f we do make changes we’ll still accept comments…but in implementation processes moving forward” ASPC will work to collect “a body and a committee that represents clubs…because I think this resolution can set a fantastic precedent for how we tackle humanitarian issues at the colleges…I’ll be sending a student body email with any updates.”

After the discussion had ended, one student official noted that “[t]here was a miscommunication last week…and the email [containing the resolution and soliciting comment] was going to go out the student body for comment when Gabbi Starr’s email came out before that.” Last week, Pomona President G. Gabrielle Starr sent an email to students urging ASPC “to reverse course and allow for full discussion” of the issue.

In light of the controversy surrounding the final clause, ASPC eventually resolved to table the resolution to divest all student body fees collected and spent by it from the UN’s list of companies involved in West Bank Israel-Palestinian settlements for formal discussion next week.

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